It is a truth universally acknowledged, that I am rubbish at making wine - this, despite 30 years of trying. Camden tablets, squeaky clean vessels, racking off, yes, yes and yes. And still I have failed to make anything which could be drunk - enjoyably - on its own, without added water and sugar. (Because obviously, we are not going to let it go to waste). So I am trying again, and throwing the rule book out of the window. I am going to make an old-school country wine, with no flim-flammery. My big bag of de-stalked elderberries, picked on our last walk, was left in a large fermenting bucket, covered with hot water and left to steep for a few days. With a handful of cloves added, for luck. They started doing the business on their own, and were soon fizzing away on a natural ferment - and, a little alarmingly, a bit of natural mould scumming the top.
Time to strain the berries off. The only thing suitable I had was a small jelly bag. This was OK, as our kitchen is smaller than most people's loos - no room to swing a cat, let alone do major wine pouring - so it all had to be decanted into a motley assortment of pans. Aerating, I believe it is called. Monty's Vineyard was on the TV as I gently squeezed and sploshed, and I felt as if I was in good company.
There was a horrid moment when I thought I had found a large, juice soaked maggot, but it turned out to be a clove. When I had scrubbed the bucket out, the only-slightly-scummy juices went back in, topped up with more hot water and a wallop of granulated sugar. Just to give it a bit of encouragement, I activated some Allinson's yeast - usually used in my bread, but in my old recipes it does just say 'yeast' - no Burgundy yeast or anything fancy-pants like that. (I did hunt around for my old bottle of Camden tablets, but they seem to have vanished).
And back to its corner it went. Three gallons of what should be elderberry wine. Storage space in our tiny cottage is at a premium - there is none to speak of. So my wine sits next to my vinyl record collection and in front of two five foot columns of old 'Country Living' (and my crash helmet lurking in the background).
It's in good company though, as just across the way is Andy's little keg of home brew, sitting comfortably next to my big sack of needle felting wool, which is there because, yes, there is nowhere else for it to go.
So far, it smells (kind of) like wine - it looks like wine- but only time and the Gods will reveal whether it can raise itself above its lowly beginnings. We will probably drink it regardless.